License to Wed (2007)

Daynah Burnett

Everything about License to Wed so completely contaminates its talent that I may never be able to enjoy The Office again.

License to Wed

Director: Ken Kwapis
Cast: Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, John Krasinski, Eric Christian Olsen, Christine Taylor
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Brothers
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-07-03 (General release)

Imagine the whitest comedy ever made. Subtract Steve Martin and/or Ben Stiller, add animatronic babies, and you've got the gist of License to Wed. It begins with the courtship of Ben (John Krasinski) and Sadie (Mandy Moore), truncated to fit a sticky-sweet montage of Caucasians-in-love. If only it stopped there. But the film, only five minutes old and already tiresome, trudges on to Sadie's parents' 30th wedding anniversary party, where Ben intends to take the next step.

Indeed, Ben proposes, Sadie accepts, and wedding plans begin. Though Ben is thinking about the Caribbean for their nuptials, his idea is quickly dashed when Sadie's parents insist they be married in the church her late grandfather help build, so that family friend Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) can conduct the service. Ben agrees to all of it, thus avoiding what would be the couple's first fight. But Reverend Frank's inclusion quickly proves to be a really bad idea, for the film and for the couple.

In order for Reverend Frank to officiate the wedding, Ben and Sadie must complete his intensive marriage preparation course, which, the Reverend warns, is not for the squeamish. His "Ministers of Tomorrow" choirboy protégé (Josh Flitter), who throughout the film behaves more like a mafioso than a religious pupil, backs up the course, citing a 100% success rate for couples who have done things the Reverend's way. Almost immediately, Sadie's faith in the minister is challenged. Their first group session, inexplicably held in the back of a seedy bar, depicts mostly white, upper middle class couples arguing about balancing their checkbooks and getting lost while driving. Though Ben and Sadie contend that they've never argued and rather enjoy spending time with one another, the group insists that they, too, will eventually bicker like the Costanzas. It's just a matter of time and contrivance.

As these couplehood clichés mount, the Reverend taunts Ben (throwing baseballs at his face) and bugs Ben and Sadie's apartment -- you know, so he can burst in when they come too close to breaking his no-sex-until-the-honeymoon rule. Just as the choirboy forewarned, it appears that "Reverend Frank is everywhere." This man of the cloth is not only omniscient, but also voyeuristic, lurking in a surveillance van outside of the couple's apartment at all hours, like a mean-spirited Santa disguised as a pastor. And yet, for all the over-plotting, Williams' usual energy suffers under the collar, his signature hyper-word-association only extending to an assortment of religious puns ("Get the flock outta here!"), never mustering any irony as a respected clergyman mad with power.

Perhaps Williams' slack performance is understandable, because no amount of shtick could temper the inane series of trials Rev. Frank designs to test the limits of Ben and Sadie's love, not to mention the limits of John Krasinski's eyebrows-raised-in-disbelief face, perfected on The Office. Rev. Frank drops off a set of robotic infants for the couple to practice their baby-tending, just as Ben's best friend Joel (DeRay Davis) needs emergency babysitting of his two sons (Dominic, Diego, and Devin Swingler), causing predictable mayhem occurs right before the couple's appointment to select their gift registry at Macy's -- oh no! While the live children run amok in the mall, the robo-babies barf, cry, and shit blue fudge. Ben grows frantic, his eyes getting bigger and bigger and bigger. He's overwhelmed, while Sadie obliviously shops, shops, shops.

Ben's growing frustration with Sadie, inspired by the Reverend, is exacerbated by his own apparent sense of inadequacy compared to her bourgie family. But, because the film spends so much time on Rev. Frank's kooky and invasive behavior, we see very little of the couple's actual relationship. So when their future is thrown into question, it's hard to root for them. As far as the audience can tell, their relationship seems based on Ben biting his tongue, and Sadie's blind trust in the Reverend's methods, no matter how absurd or antagonistic.

Sadie's a puzzle the film doesn't even pretend to solve. Her upbringing epitomizes white privilege, which here translates into trite observations about religion and marriage. Sadie's divorced older sister Lindsey (Christine Taylor), concedes that her failed marriage consisted of her watching Titanic every night, until her husband left her for a dental hygienist. The symbolism of the sinking ship seems lost on both women, who smile and hug and just keep shopping.

So even when Ben manages to reveal that Reverend Frank's apartment bugging is illegal, and it looks like some rationality might save the day, the Rev is never held accountable. Instead, the film careens along to its ludicrous "happy ending." Director Ken Kwapis comes with nearly a dozen episodes of The Office to his credit, and he enlists no less than three cameos by the show's veterans, as if trying to save this ship. But I'm afraid that no amount of Angela Kinsey's deadpan can make the accidental wedding band inscription, "Never to Fart," anything less than excruciating. In fact, everything about License to Wed so completely contaminates its talent that I may never be able to enjoy The Office again.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.